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Brawl fallout

Miami, FIU have 31 players suspended for role in fight

Posted: Sunday October 15, 2006 11:34AM; Updated: Monday October 16, 2006 2:55PM
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Miami and Florida International engaged in a bench-clearing brawl in the first-ever meeting between the neighboring schools.
Miami and Florida International engaged in a bench-clearing brawl in the first-ever meeting between the neighboring schools.
Marc Serota/Getty Images

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- Once the fighting ended, the finger-pointing began, with the majority of Miami and Florida International players claiming the other side started an ugly, sideline-clearing brawl.

On Sunday, those schools and their leagues found plenty of blame to go around.

After reviewing video of the melee that marred Saturday night's matchup, 31 players -- 13 from the Hurricanes, and 18 from FIU -- were suspended for his team's next game. Miami plays at Duke this coming Saturday, FIU visits Alabama Oct. 28.

Additional sanctions, including longer suspensions for some players, were expected to be issued by the schools. Florida International called a news conference for later Monday, at which time further "much harsher penalties" would likely be announced, coach Don Strock said.

"This is certainly embarrassing. It's disgraceful. It's amazing. I've run out of words," Strock said Monday. "There's no place for it in college football or football period. This is way overboard. I apologize to all the fans of college football for this taking place."

Meanwhile, Miami president Donna Shalala said in an open letter to the university community Monday that the fight was "outrageous."

"Regardless of who started it, this was an embarrassing display of unsportsmanlike behavior," Shalala wrote. "Fortunately there were no injuries."

The Atlantic Coast Conference and Miami (4-2) suspended Carlos Armour, Chris Barney, James Bryant, Tyrone Byrd, DajLeon Farr, Ryan Hill, Bruce Johnson, Charlie Jones, Brandon Meriweather, Brian Monroe, Derrick Morse, Randy Phillips and Anthony Reddick.

"These suspensions send a clear and definitive message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said.

Meanwhile, the Sun Belt Conference and FIU (0-7) suspended Michael Alls, Scott Bryant, Roland Clark, Michael Dominquez, John Ellis, Cory Fleming, Reginald Jones, Marshall McDuffie Jr., Robert Mitchell, Quintin Newman, Luis Pena, Jarvis Penerton, Julian Reams, Lionell Singleton, Chris Smith, Samuel Smith, Mannie Wellington and Chandler Williams.

"There is no place in higher education for the type of conduct exhibited," Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters said.

The NCAA, in a statement released Monday, called the fight "wholly unacceptable."

"It is hoped that the actions taken by Miami, FIU and the conferences will send a message that such behavior is not tolerated," said the NCAA's statement.

There were many instances of heated words being exchanged during -- and before -- the game.

But shortly after halftime, unsportsmanlike turned into unruly.

Bryant bowed to the crowd after catching a touchdown pass with 9 minutes left in the third quarter. Moments later, FIU's Chris Smith wrestled Miami holder Matt Perrelli to the ground and punched him.

McDuffie kicked Perrelli in the helmet. Morse jumped onto the Smith-Perrelli pile, Singleton followed and tried to punch the Hurricanes' Calais Campbell -- and benches began to empty.

"It's a real embarrassment," FIU linebacker Keyonvis Bouie said, "especially for our school. ... I'm just really disgusted with our players and the way we handled the situation."

Several players from both sides appeared to throw punches. Meriweather was seen attempting to stomp on FIU players, while an injured Golden Panther swung a crutch menacingly at several Miami players.

Meanwhile, Reddick charged across the field, helmet raised over his head, and slammed it into Mitchell.

"Disgraceful," Miami coach Larry Coker said.

The suspensions come at a terrible time for Miami, which has six ACC games remaining -- and probably needs five wins to even have a chance at playing for the conference title.

Yes, Miami is playing winless Duke next. But the Hurricanes will play that game without their best kick returner (Johnson), their second-best running back (Jones), two key secondary members (Meriweather and Randy Phillips), their right guard (Morse) and their punter (Monroe).

Plus, starting right tackle Jason Fox and linebacker Jon Beason were injured Saturday and their availability isn't known for the Duke game.

Suddenly, what could have been an easy game doesn't look so easy anymore.

Meanwhile, FIU would have been a big underdog at Alabama anyway, but now will visit the Crimson Tide without nearly half of its regular starting lineup.

"I can promise you," Strock said, "that this will never happen again."

It's the latest in a disturbing series of incidents for Miami in recent months.

-- Several Miami players fought with LSU players following the Tigers' 40-3 Peach Bowl win.

-- Shortly before the Miami-Louisville game Sept. 16, virtually the entire Hurricanes' roster jumped on the Cardinals logo at midfield, an act widely viewed as a taunting gesture. Afterward, some Miami players chided teammates for that incident.

-- A Miami player, Willie Cooper, was shot outside his home shortly before training camp began in what players contend was a robbery attempt. Meriweather returned fire; police said he acted legally.

-- Wide receiver Ryan Moore, who was suspended for the Peach Bowl for violating team rules, then suspended again for other infractions, is expected to be charged this week with misdemeanors stemming from an August fight with a woman. He hasn't played this season.

And now, perhaps, comes the worst blow.

Still, Coker -- who has been under fire all season and whose job security seems to be a constant source of speculation -- bristled when asked if he has control of his team.

"I do have a grip on this program," Coker said. "Don't ever doubt that. Don't ever doubt that."

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